Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Tokyo — The Springboks and  All Blacks have been involved in tight contests in their last four meetings with just one point separating them over that period.

Almost forgotten now‚ however‚ is the teams’ last clash in the Rugby World Cup when the Boks ran the eventual champions unexpectedly close in the semifinals in London four years ago.

Given the sins the Boks committed earlier in that tournament‚ the semifinal quickly drifted into the mists of time. But Bok tighthead prop and general strongman Frans Malherbe was asked in what standing the Class of ’19 is compared to the team that came close to knocking the All Blacks out four years ago.

“It is difficult to compare‚ not just because it is four years later. With a competition like this we are fully focused and there is 100% buy-in [from the players]‚” he said.

“It is not like we are more focused or more prepared. Or have a better attitude to the upcoming competition. They are similar in that regard.”

Another senior Bok who featured in that 20-18 defeat‚ centre Damian de Allende‚ nodded in agreement. “The vibe and the energy around the team is still the same.”

De Allende agreed that going into a second World Cup campaign is easier than the first‚ but he had a caveat.

“But the same excitement is still there for me‚” he said. “I don’t think we’ll ever take it for granted. It is nice to go to one World Cup but even more special when you go to two. No matter how many you go to I think that excitement stays with you.”

Despite the stifling humidity, the Boks have cranked up their preparations ahead of the clash.

Earlier this week it was revealed that No 8 Duane Vermeulen lost 3kg in a light training session. For Malherbe‚ who has a hulking 125kg frame‚ the exertions require more than a flick off a wet brow.

“It was very hot‚ especially the first week and a half‚” he said. “There is a difference between weight loss and getting dehydrated. It is cooler now and the humidity is high. I think we got good prep in those first 12 days. It is important to drink water. Dropping the odd kilogram is not that bad.”

Though rain is predicted for Saturday’s clash he expects the pitch in the Yokohama Stadium to hold up.

Malherbe said the pitches “have been amazing” on all the fields he has trained on so far.

“It is more a question of how the fields will hold up than whether it will be wet‚ slippery or sweaty‚ or whatever.”

Meanwhile‚ All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster responded to Bok assistant Matt Proudfoot’s assertion that the injured lock Brodie Retallick might play against the Boks on Saturday.

“I do not know why Matthew would think that‚” said Foster. “He’s [Retallick] quite hard to hide from you guys‚ a six-foot-five [2m] monster‚ we haven’t been sneaking him into training or anything like that.

“He is progressing really strongly, but I’m pretty sure he won’t be there on Saturday‚” said Foster before playfully adding: “But who knows?”